Butcher's Broom: Active Ingredients and Benefits

Butcher's broom supplements are popular for their effects on venous insufficiency. In addition, they're believed to have other health benefits. In this article, we'll talk about this plant's benefits and possible side effects.
Butcher's Broom: Active Ingredients and Benefits

Last update: 02 September, 2021

Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), also known as  “holly” or “wild myrtle,” is a small evergreen shrub that develops several stiff branches. In fact, it’s known as “butcher’s broom,” since in ancient times butchers bundled its branches to sweep up their chopping blocks.

The plant comes from Western Europe, although it’s also found in North Africa and Asia. Today, its roots are used in supplementation as its active principles are associated with several potential health benefits.

What does the research say?

Find out right here!

Active ingredients of butcher’s broom

Because of its wide use in natural medicine, butcher’s broom has been the source of much research.

Thus, doctors have determined that many of its active biochemical compounds justify its use as a natural remedy. Of course, studies are still ongoing and there’s still no solid evidence to consider it as a first-choice treatment. Still, specialists have identified its pharmacological substances.

It’s important to note that we obtain the active principles from the rhizome and root. We must exclude other parts, such as the fruits, as they contain toxic compounds. According to data compiled in the scientific journal Molecules, its most prominent compounds of interest are the following:

  • Ruscogenin and neo-ruscogenin (steroidal saponins), which have anti-inflammatory and venotonic properties, according to research
  • Flavonoids, such as rutoside and hesperidin, are attributed to a diuretic and anti-edematous effect
  • Triterpenes
  • Mineral salts, especially potassium
  • Resins
  • Traces of essential oil

Uses and benefits of butcher’s broom

Because of its particular composition, butcher’s broom is considered an anti-inflammatory, diuretic, venotonic, and capillary protector remedy. However, many of its applications come from traditional practice and conclusive scientific studies do little to support it. For now, some research has made promising findings.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Chronic inflammatory states are associated with an increased risk of disease. Thus, we must control it to avoid health deterioration.

In this sense, butcher’s broom seems to have potential benefits. Research reported in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences highlights that ruscogenin, one of its active compounds, decreases inflammation markers.

Similarly, a study in the Archives of Pharmacal Research supports these mechanisms. In particular, it concludes that ruscogenin helps stop the production of an enzyme that causes cartilage degradation in arthritic disorders.

Butcher's broom joint disorder
Butcher’s broom could be a good anti-inflammatory for joint disorders.

Adjuvant against venous disorders

One of the main uses of butcher’s broom is for blood circulation. Its abundant flavonoid content is related to benefits at the vascular level. To be more precise, the plant contains substances that stimulate the alpha-adrenergic receptors that cause the veins to contract.

In research shared by International Angiology, it was determined that a Ruscus aculeatus supplement with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) helped reduce symptoms and edema in patients with chronic venous disorders. Specifically, it reduced leg pain, heaviness, and the sensation of swelling.

Hemorrhoids prevention

In traditional medicine, butcher’s broom has been a preventive supplement against hemorrhoids. Some believe it helps reduce swelling and stimulate vein contraction. On the other hand, a study in Alternative and Complementary Therapies found that 69% of people who supplemented with butcher’s broom had fewer hemorrhoid symptoms, such as pain and irritation.

Other possible benefits of butcher’s broom

Several butcher’s broom benefits come from anecdotal data and its uses in natural medicine. Therefore, you should use its supplements sparingly.

According to information from the U.S. corporation WebMD, there’s insufficient evidence for the following:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Low blood pressure on rising
  • Varicose veins
  • Swelling of the arms due to lymphedema
  • Constipation
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Fractures
  • Fluid retention
  • Gout or hyperuricemia
  • Kidney stones
  • Lumbar pain

Possible side effects of butcher’s broom

Specialists consider butcher’s broom supplements safe for most people when taken orally for up to 3 months. However, in some people, it may cause unwanted reactions, such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In a case report reported in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, a woman with diabetes developed ketoacidosis after taking this plant. However, specialists don’t know if the underlying cause was butcher’s broom or other factors.

You shouldn’t take it concurrently with blood pressure or kidney disease medications as there may be possible interactions. In these cases, it’s best to consult a doctor first. Children, pregnant and breastfeeding women should also steer clear.

It should be considered that the saponins of this plant act as anti-nutrients. Therefore, consuming it may reduce the absorption of essential minerals such as zinc and iron.

Butcher's broom for varicose syndrome
The use of butcher’s broom for varicose veins is controversial. There’s some evidence it works, but more studies are needed.

Dosage and recommendations

At present, specialists haven’t defined an exact dosage for the consumption of butcher’s broom. The recommended amount may vary according to age, sex, and medical history, among other factors. Therefore, you must respect the dosage suggested on the supplement label.

In general, here are some basic guidelines:

  • Dried root: From 0.05 to 0.10 ounces (1.5 to 3 grams) per day
  • Tablets: Up to 200 milligrams, 2 or 3 times a day
  • Tinctures or extracts: 3 to 6 milliliters per day

Similarly, there are ointments, syrups, and other products containing this plant available.

What to remember about butcher’s broom

Butcher’s broom supplements are known for their effects on blood circulation and associated disorders. You can find them in herbal stores or pharmacies, alone or combined with other plants and substances. Although some studies support its benefits, you should remember that it doesn’t replace medical treatment.

In any of its presentations, you should use the plant sparingly, according to professional or label indications. If there’s an underlying disease or if you’re taking medication, you should ask your doctor first.

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